Beyond Legal Recognition: Mapping Dispossession and Other Methodological Openings for Counter-mapping

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Political Geography Specialty Group, Legal Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Organizers: Sarah Kelly, Manuel Prieto
Chairs: Sarah Kelly


Counter-mapping refers to a subversive form of mapmaking that provides a medium for the historically powerless to speak against dominant power structures. As part of their counter-mapping efforts, Indigenous peoples among other local groups have appropriated state cartographic techniques to support their territorial claims against dispossession (Peluso, 1995). Broadly, counter-mapping efforts instrumentally use maps for state legal recognition of Indigenous territory. Amidst the territorial turn in Latin America, whereby states legally recognize Indigenous collective rights in territories and massively transferred state-owned lands to Indigenous communities (Offen, 2003), mapping played a translational and contentious role (Bryan, 2011, 2012). Much of the scholarly debate on counter-mapping refers to maps’ articulation within these legal processes. Use of maps with and by Indigenous people, and other traditionally overlooked and marginalized actors, continues to be contentious among geographers and anthropologists, as well as the communities involved.

While important critiques have been raised regarding counter-mapping for legal recognition of Indigenous territories (Bryan, 2009; 2011; Rocheleau, 2005; Roth, 2009; Wainwright, 2011), we suggest that geographers can advance methodologically-oriented questions beyond can the subaltern map (Wainwright, 2011). It bears mentioning that maps can take many forms, as can mapmaking. Maps, like other images, are interpretations of social narratives -- how we understand reality is in part informed by how we read these representations (Rivera Cusicanqui, 2006). Since Indigenous people have often been silenced in the creation of Western cartographies, engaged scholars advocate mapping that reconsiders the epistemology of cartography, particularly knowledge and space (Hirt, 2012; Louis, 2004). This counter movement opposes translating multidimensional realities into two-dimensional, abstract space (Roth, 2009). In this call, we invite abstracts that advance participatory mapmaking, critical cartography, and other creative mediums of writing the world. In particular, we welcome submissions from feminist, Indigenous, collaborative, more-than-human, and/or political geography sub-disciplines, among others.

We welcome papers that converse with the following themes, questions, and statements:

· How does critical cartography make the invisible visible in order to challenge dispossession?

· What paradoxes and dilemmas emerge in counter-mapping, and how do researchers and communities navigate these dynamics?

· How does critical cartography challenge dispossession through the production of alternative spaces?

· In what ways does counter-mapping challenge how natural resources and/or human-nature relationships are made legible? How does acts of critical cartography relate to struggles for resource access, control, and territorial sovereignty?

· Explorations of the role(s) of maps in both reproducing and challenging dispossession.

· Understanding dispossession through cartographic collaboration with subaltern research partners.

· Analyze maps made for visualizing technologies of power through which dispossession is reproduced.

· Documenting the existence of indigenous territories, traditional uses of the territory and resources, beings and processes not found in official cartography and not available to representation in Cartesian space.

· Collaborative mapping projects that attend to negotiating onto-epistemic differences (de la Cadena, 2015) and reflexively navigate how representational strategies move between Indigenous ontologies and western theorizations of ontology (Hunt, 2014).

· Trace relationships between maps and memory through innovative methodological approaches.


Bryan, J. (2011). Walking the line: Participatory mapping, indigenous rights, and neoliberalism. Geoforum, 42(1), 40–50.

Bryan, J. (2012). Rethinking territory: social justice and neoliberalism in Latin America’s territorial turn. Geography Compass, 6(4), 215–226.

De la Cadena, M. (2015). Earth beings: Ecologies of practice across Andean worlds. Duke University Press.

Hirt, I. (2012). Mapping dreams/dreaming maps: Bridging indigenous and western geographical knowledge. Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, 47(2), 105–120.

Hunt, S. (2014). Ontologies of Indigeneity: the politics of embodying a concept. Cultural geographies, 21(1), 27-32.

Louis, R. P. (2004). Indigenous Hawaiian cartographer: in search of common ground. Cartographic Perspectives, (48), 7–23.

Offen, K. H. (2003). The territorial turn: making black territories in Pacific Colombia. Journal of Latin American Geography, 43-73.

Peluso, N. L. (1995). Whose woods are these? Counter‐mapping forest territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Antipode, 27(4), 383-406.

Rivera Cusicanqui, S. (2006). Chhixinakax utxiwa. Una reflexión sobre prácticas y discursos descolonizadores. Modernidad y pensamiento descolonizador. Memoria del Seminario Internacional, 5-13.

Rocheleau, D. (2005). Maps as power tools: locating communities in space or situating people and ecologies in place. Communities and Conservation: Histories and Politics of Community-Based Natural Resource Management, 327–362.

Roth, R. (2009). The challenges of mapping complex indigenous spatiality: from abstract space to dwelling space. Cultural Geographies,16(2), 207–227.

Wainwright, J. (2011). Decolonizing development: colonial power and the Maya (Vol. 36). John Wiley & Sons.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Manuel Prieto*, Universidad Catolica del Norte, Mapping memories without subjects: An archaeological approach to the study of the dispossession of the San Pedro de Inacaliri River (Atacama Desert, Chile) 20 1:10 PM
Presenter Sarah Kelly*, CIGIDEN, Universidad Católica de Chile, Mapping threats, hope, and history: A collaborative methodological approach to counter-mapping 20 1:30 PM
Presenter Murat Arsel*, Institute of Social Studies, Bombarding with data? Drones, neo-extractivism and environmental justice in the Amazon 20 1:50 PM
Presenter Walker DePuy*, University of Georgia, Challenges and openings from a collaborative, multi-modal mapping project amid an Indonesian resource frontier 20 2:10 PM
Presenter Olaia Chivite Amigo*, University of Michigan, Maria Arquero de Alarcon, University of Michigan, Martin Murray, University of Michigan, The Contested Urbanisms of Abandonment 20 2:30 PM

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